WBEZ | red light cameras http://www.wbez.org/tags/red-light-cameras Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Are Chicago's shorter yellow lights unsafe, or just unfair? http://www.wbez.org/news/are-chicagos-shorter-yellow-lights-unsafe-or-just-unfair-110955 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s red light cameras are under increased scrutiny, after a <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/watchdog/redlight/"><em>Chicago Tribune</em> investigation</a> found glitchy cameras may have issued thousands of tickets in error. The report also found many yellow lights are slightly short of the city standard of three seconds.</p><p>WBEZ has been looking into yellow lights too &mdash; and we&rsquo;ve found something else. Many traffic experts say Chicago flouts industry best practices with how it programs its traffic control devices &mdash; and one engineer says it may be &ldquo;entrapping&rdquo; drivers into running red lights.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Should I run? Should I stop?</span></p><p>Our inquiry started with Pavel Gigov, a North Side resident who, incidentally, is not a transportation engineer. Gigov drives a car, and like many of us, he&rsquo;s gotten a red light camera ticket or two. He got one in April at an intersection he normally drove through on his way home from work, and thought something was strange.</p><p>&ldquo;The light turned yellow and my immediate reaction was, OK, let me figure out what to do,&rdquo; Gigov recounted. &ldquo;And before I could actually even put my mind around what the decent thing to do is &mdash; should I run? should I stop? &mdash; it was already red and I was in the middle of the intersection.&rdquo;</p><p>The intersection was at W Peterson Ave. and N California Ave., in Chicago&rsquo;s West Ridge neighborhood. The streets are pretty wide: each has six or seven lanes across, and like many Chicago roads, the speed limit is 30 miles an hour.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="450" src="https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m16!1m12!1m3!1d209.6174687124326!2d-87.69939310755217!3d41.99043739075356!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!2m1!1scalifornia+ave+peterson+ave!5e1!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1409930061367" style="border:0" width="600"></iframe></p><p><em>Gigov received his red light camera ticket at the intersection of W Peterson Ave. and N California Ave. Like many Chicago intersections, the streets have a speed limit of 30mph.</em></p><p>Gigov said the moment he crossed into the intersection, he saw the flash of the red light camera going off.</p><p>&ldquo;And I knew that there was something that was going to be in the mail pretty soon,&rdquo; he laughed.</p><p>Sure, enough, Gigov got a $100 ticket in the mail. He paid it, but still, he wondered: wasn&rsquo;t that yellow light kind of short?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Is it safe? Is it fair?</span></p><p><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/red-light_cameraenforcement.html">Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation says</a> the city&rsquo;s yellow light intervals &ldquo;fall within the guidelines of the Federal Highway Administration&rsquo;s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and adheres to recommendations by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s half-true.</p><p>First, the true part: <a href="http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2009r1r2/html_index.htm">the MUTCD does, indeed, recommend</a> that yellow lights fall between 3 and 6 seconds. At the intersection where Gigov got his ticket, a frame-by-frame video analysis of the traffic signal showed that the yellow light lasts exactly three seconds &mdash; the minimum recommended under the MUTCD guidelines.</p><p>But three seconds falls short of what the yellow light interval should be, if the city were to follow ITE recommendations as it claims. Gigov said he worries that in flouting best engineering practices, Chicago may put drivers at risk. Particularly at red light camera intersections, where each traffic violation could bring dollars into the city&rsquo;s coffers.</p><p>&ldquo;Are we trading in accidents for revenue?&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Unfortunately in the City of Chicago, that&rsquo;s a legitimate question.&rdquo;</p><p>The city claims it implements a blanket policy on yellow light intervals, regardless of whether there&rsquo;s a red light camera: three seconds when the speed limit is 30mph or lower, and four seconds when it&rsquo;s 35mph or higher. &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s yellow times are more than adequate for a driver traveling the speed limit to react and stop safely,&rdquo; it states on the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/supp_info/red-light_cameraenforcement.html">CDOT website</a>. The policy bucks a growing trend among transportation agencies nationwide.</p><p>&ldquo;The idea of a constant time is not typical,&rdquo; said James Taylor, a retired traffic engineer in Indiana.</p><p>While there&rsquo;s no federal mandate that requires transportation agencies to follow a method in determining yellow light intervals, Taylor said more places are adopting a <a href="http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_731.pdf">mathematical equation</a> that has been developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.</p><p>&ldquo;It keeps getting more and more widely accepted,&rdquo; said Taylor, &ldquo;as opposed to the system you&rsquo;re talking about where we just say let&rsquo;s just make all of them three (seconds), or three-and-a-half, or something like that.&rdquo;</p><p>A 2012 <a href="http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_731.pdf">survey</a> of more than 200 transportation agencies in the U.S., Canada and Germany, found only 6 percent timed their yellow light intervals the way Chicago does. By contrast, the largest chunk &mdash; almost 40 percent &mdash; used the ITE equation.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Using the ITE formula</span></p><p>The ITE formula for the length of yellow lights factors in the specific conditions of an individual intersection, such as speed limit and the grade of the road. It also uses numerical assumptions based on extensive field studies.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="Y=t+(1.47V/2a+64.4g)" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yellow-light-fomula-1.png" style="height: 64px; width: 200px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Where:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Y = total clearance period (in seconds)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>t = perception-reaction time (usually 1 second)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>V = 85th percentile approach speed (mph)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>a = deceleration rate (ft/sec&sup2;)</em></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>g = percent of grade divided by 100</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The equation assumes a perception-reaction time, <em>t</em>, of one second for the average driver, based on field measurements. In other words, it takes about that long for a typical driver to see that the light has changed to yellow, and to decide what to do.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The fraction shown in the equation calculates how long it should take to decelerate to a stop, based on a typical driver&rsquo;s approach speed (<em>V</em>), a comfortable deceleration rate (<em>a</em>), and the grade of the intersection. Traffic engineers recommend using the 85th percentile of approaching traffic to determine a typical approach speed. If that hasn&rsquo;t, or cannot, be measured, a commonly accepted approximation is to add 7mph to the speed limit. &nbsp;Field studies have also found that a comfortable deceleration rate, <em>a</em>, for drivers is 10 ft/sec&sup2;. In Chicago, the grade of the street, <em>g</em>, is negligible, so we assume it to be zero.</div><p>Plug the numbers in for the intersection where Gigov received his yellow ticket, and it yields a yellow light interval, <em>Y</em>, of 3.7 seconds &mdash; that is, 0.7 seconds longer than it actually lasts. Studies show that could significantly change outcomes at an intersection.</p><p>&ldquo;Increasing the yellow by one second would decrease violations by 50-60 percent, and reduce crashes by 35-40 percent,&rdquo; said Davey Warren, a transportation engineer who spent most of his career with the Federal Highway Administration.</p><p>That agency has been pushing transportation departments nationwide to adopt the kinematic equation. In fact, in 2012 it made a change to the MUTCD that would require agencies to switch to engineering practices to determine yellow light intervals by mid-June of 2017.</p><p>Many traffic engineers were surprised to hear that Chicago does not already use widely-accepted engineering practices to calculate its yellow light intervals.</p><p>&ldquo;There is a general rule with engineers, you should be following the best accepted practice unless they can document valid reasons for not doing so,&rdquo; said Warren.</p><p>WBEZ requested multiple times to interview someone at Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Transportation. The department didn&rsquo;t respond. The department also failed to respond to a request under the Freedom of Information Act for its programming instructions for traffic control devices.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">After the yellow, comes the all-red</span></p><p>But before you worry that the city&rsquo;s putting drivers at risk by skimping on yellow light times, there&rsquo;s a twist. In addition to recommending a mathematically-derived yellow light interval, transportation engineers also recommend something called an <em>all-red interval</em>. That&rsquo;s a brief moment after the yellow light, where the lights are red in <em>all directions</em>. It gives a chance for cars still caught in the intersection to finish crossing before the opposing traffic gets a green.</p><p>The ITE recommendation for the all-red interval has changed over time. However,a 2012 <a href="http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rpt_731.pdf">study</a> by the National Cooperative Highway Research Board proposed the following guideline for the calculation:&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="R=(W+L/1.47V)-1" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yellow-light-fomula-2.png" style="height: 59px; width: 200px;" title="" /></div><p>Where:</p><p><em>R = all-red clearance interval (seconds)</em><br /><em>W = intersection width (ft)</em><br /><em>L = length of vehicle (ft)</em><br /><em>V = 85th percentile approach speed (mph)</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting that there&rsquo;s some debate over subtracting the number 1 on the right side of this equation. The &nbsp;ITE contemplates both possibilities. The NCHRP study found in field studies that it typically takes one second for drivers to perceive and react to a change to green after the all-red interval. So in its conclusions, it recommends subtracting that reaction time, to keep traffic flow more efficient.</p><p>Across transportation engineering literature, the standard length of a vehicle, <em>L</em>, is 20 feet, and again, the approach speed is approximated by adding 7mph to the speed limit.</p><p>At Gigov&rsquo;s intersection, where the streets were approximately 60 feet wide, the formula above yields an all-red clearance interval of 0.47 seconds. That means a vehicle that was caught in the intersection when the light turned red, would still have about half-a-second to finish its transition before opposing traffic gets a green light.</p><p>It turns out, the actual all-red clearance interval at the intersection of W Peterson Ave and N California Ave alternates between one and two seconds. Both of these are much longer than the formula recommends.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/yellow-lights-2.png" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>At a typical intersection in Chicago, where speed limits are 30mph, the city sets yellow lights at three seconds, followed by an all-red clearance interval of at least one second. By comparison, best engineering practices recommends a yellow light of 3.7 seconds, followed by an all-red clearance interval of .47 seconds. Experts say that while the total clearance times are close (4 seconds and 4.17 seconds, respectively), the misallocation of time between the yellow and all-red intervals may entrap drivers into more violations.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Data on actual yellow lights from CDOT&rsquo;s website and field measurements at intersection of W Peterson Ave. and N California Ave. Recommended calculations based on the<a href="http://www.ite.org/bookstore/IR-113.pdf"> kinematic equation</a> developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.</em></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size: 22px;">&lsquo;Entrapping drivers into running red lights&rsquo;</span></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Together, the yellow light and the all-red interval add up to what&rsquo;s called a &ldquo;change period.&rdquo; That &ldquo;change period&rdquo; at the intersection where Gigov got his ticket equals the three-second yellow light, plus one or two seconds for the all-red interval -- a total of four or five seconds. Engineering practices would yield a nearly similar result: a 3.7 second yellow light, followed by 0.47 second all-red interval, totaling 4.17 seconds.</div><p>The difference is, Chicago shortens the yellow portion of the change interval, and lengthens the all-red portion.</p><p>&ldquo;So from a safety standpoint, it&rsquo;s probably OK, but the thing is they&rsquo;re misallocating the times,&rdquo; said Warren, &ldquo;and so they&rsquo;re basically entrapping drivers into running red lights.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, Chicago&rsquo;s yellow light intervals may not be unsafe, but they may be unfair.</p><p>Gigov said if the city wants to win back public trust when it comes to its use of red light cameras, it should use to the most up-to-date engineering guidelines when it programs its traffic control devices.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re the city of Chicago, and your fiduciary duty is to serve residents of the city, and not to increase the revenue in such a borderline shady way,&rdquo; said Gigov.</p><p>Last year, anger over red light camera tickets in Florida prompted a reexamination of yellow lights. It turned out, yellow lights in that state were also timed contrary to engineering formulas. So Florida&rsquo;s Department of Transportation mandated the lights be lengthened.</p><p>Gigov said he hopes Chicago will do the same.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 08:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/are-chicagos-shorter-yellow-lights-unsafe-or-just-unfair-110955 How often are cabs pulled over? And what for? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-often-are-cabs-pulled-over-and-what-109734 <p><p><a name="video"></a><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/0zK8vTcqQck?rel=0" width="620"></iframe><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/135672786&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Listen to this story on the Curious City podcast, including a debrief with question-asker Dan Monaghan and WBEZ reporter Odette Yousef, at minute 5:53 in the audio above.&nbsp;</em></p><p>Dan Monaghan bikes and drives and walks a lot in Chicago. He sees a lot on the road that irritates him, especially from cab drivers. But he doesn&rsquo;t see them getting pulled over all that often. So he wrote in to Curious City with a pretty simple question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How often are taxis pulled over and what is the most often issued offense they receive?</em></p><p>Or at least it seemed simple when we took it on back in August. We figured a simple data request to the right city department would yield a clear-cut conclusion. But nearly a dozen Freedom of Information requests and six months later, here&rsquo;s the answer.</p><p>We don&rsquo;t know.</p><p>(<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re72di5phM0">cue the crickets</a>)</p><p>But not all is lost. Because what we did learn on this long, strange trip is interesting in its own right. Our investigation afforded us a rare look inside the world of Chicago taxi drivers, and underlines what could be a tough road ahead &ndash; one increasingly <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cabbies-threaten-abandon-uber-over-changes-109625" target="_blank">riddled</a> with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cab-livery-companies-sue-city-over-rideshare-companies-109655">potholes</a>, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cabbies-threaten-abandon-uber-over-changes-109625" target="_blank">speed</a> <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/silence-medallion-auction-puzzles-some-109546">bumps</a> and yes, the occasional ticket from law enforcement.</p><p>Fasten your seatbelts, and I&#39;ll try to explain.</p><p><strong>The data trail</strong></p><p>The first surprising thing we learned in tackling this question is that there&rsquo;s not one department that contains all the data. The city&rsquo;s Department of Finance has some, the city&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings has some, the city&rsquo;s department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has some, and the Circuit Court of Cook County has some too. Each of these required separate (and sometimes multiple) data requests.</p><p>In addition, the legal codes that underly the citations don&rsquo;t match up across departments. For example, there is an offense under the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/rulesandregs/publicchauffeursrulesregs20121203.pdf">city&rsquo;s rules for taxi drivers</a> called &ldquo;reckless driving&rdquo; (see Rule CH5.08). There&rsquo;s also a part of the state&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?DocName=062500050HCh.+11&amp;ActID=1815&amp;ChapterID=49&amp;SeqStart=102800000&amp;SeqEnd=125900000">vehicle code</a> about &ldquo;reckless driving&rdquo; (Sec. 11-503). But these two things aren&rsquo;t necessarily identical &ndash; and they may not match up with what you, or I, might call &ldquo;reckless driving,&rdquo; were we to witness something on the street.</p><p>To put a finer point on it, the data we got back from the Circuit Court showed only ten citations written in 2012 to cab&nbsp;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dan and odette.PNG" style="height: 222px; width: 370px; float: right;" title="Dan Monaghan, right, asked Curious City about the most common citations given to cab drivers. WBEZ's Odette Yousef, left, helped answer his question. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />drivers for &ldquo;reckless driving.&rdquo; But the same data shows 1,433 citations that year for speeding. Some might consider speeding to be reckless driving, but tickets may be written under different parts of the code. Separately, that year the&nbsp;Department of Administrative Hearings shows 996 citations for &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; (which, we&rsquo;ll explain a bit later, may be a vastly underreported figure). But &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; under the city code is quite broad. It may include offenses that, under the state rules, would be filed under &ldquo;reckless driving&rdquo; and speeding.</p><p>This is all to say that even when we do get data, we can&rsquo;t just pool it all together for analysis. The same offenses may be defined differently, depending on whether you&rsquo;re looking at city code or state laws, and even those might not match up with what we, in our own minds, may consider to be dangerous conduct!</p><p><strong>The known knowns</strong></p><p>Most of the violations that taxi drivers get slapped with end up with the City of Chicago, and not with the Circuit Court of Cook County. But let&rsquo;s dwell on the latter violations for a bit, because the vast majority of them are for moving violations. This is likely what Dan was thinking about when he wondered how often taxis are pulled over: how often do police intervene when they see a taxi doing something wrong?</p><p><script id="infogram_0_adjudication-of-taxi-citations-2012" src="//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p><p>There were more than 7,300 tickets written to taxis that were adjudicated by the Cook County Circuit Court in 2012. They were written out to about 4,300 different vehicles, but when you dig into it, each of those vehicles might have been used by several different drivers over the course of the year. For example, taxi plate 21188TX racked up the highest number of tickets for moving violations adjudicated by the Cook County Circuit Court in 2012 -- thirteen tickets in all. But those tickets were earned by three different people who drove that car.</p><p>Sorting by name doesn&rsquo;t really help either. According to this data, Mohammed Khan received a ton more tickets than anyone else in this data set &ndash; a whopping 27 in one year &ndash; but heavens knows how many Mohammed Khans are driving cabs in Chicago. It&rsquo;s not an uncommon name.</p><p>This makes it difficult for us even to give a range of numbers for taxi drivers who saw tickets. But the City of Chicago has about 7,000 cabs, so the number of times cabs would have been written tickets that headed to the Circuit Court would average out at about once per cab in 2012.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s the thing: not all tickets head to the Circuit Court of Cook County. Police may instead cite a violation of the city code instead, which means the ticket would end up going to the Department of Administrative Hearings. In 2012, that department recorded 996 cases of &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; for taxis. But this does not necessarily mean they all resulted from a police pulling the vehicle over. Some may have. But many may have resulted instead from a 311 call.</p><p>Now, even though Dan asked about how often cabs are &ldquo;pulled over,&rdquo; we took a bit of creative license with his inquiry to find out more broadly what the most common tickets and citation were for cabbies. That is to say, not just tickets that resulted from a cop pulling a cab over, but also ones that may have been issued for parking violations, for example.</p><p><strong>These are things we know that we know</strong></p><p>Parking tickets and red light camera tickets are a big headache for cab drivers in Chicago. The city&rsquo;s Department of Finance tracks this information and provided us with humongous spreadsheets of all those tickets that were written in 2012. Turns out that year, more than 28,000 tickets were written to cab drivers for parking-related violations. This meshed pretty well with what cabbies told us, and helped us unearth a phenomenon we hadn&rsquo;t known of: the so-called &ldquo;fly tickets.&rdquo;</p><p>One driver who explained it to us was Al Smith, who had to file for bankruptcy because of $5,000 in overdue parking tickets alone. Smith noted that over the years, the city has gotten rid of many of its cab stands, eliminating sanctioned places for cabbies to pull into to pick up and drop off passengers. At the same time, Smith contended that the city has become more aggressive in ticketing drivers who pull over in tow zones or other restricted spaces for even brief moments to offload or pick up.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04.jpg" style="float: left; height: 210px; width: 373px;" title="Cab driver Al Smith, right, filed for bankruptcy because of $5,000 in overdue parking tickets alone. Dan Monaghan, left, started this investigation into cab citations with his question for Curious City. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" />&ldquo;See this corner we just passed here at Union Station?&rdquo; he pointed out, &ldquo;The last space of that cab line is designated a tow zone. But they use it like a weapon.&rdquo; Smith explained that the city assigned a traffic enforcement agent specifically at that space to catch cab drivers who pull into that spot. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not parked there. We&rsquo;re just processing there,&rdquo; he explained. &ldquo;But if they catch you in that space, they will write you a ticket.&rdquo;</p><p>Many cab drivers complained of similar enforcement, noting that city rules allow cab drivers to pull over in restricted spaces for a few minutes to allow passengers on or off. But often the enforcement officers who write up the tickets do not hand them, in-person, to the drivers. Instead, they are posted in the mail, arriving in drivers&rsquo; mailboxes weeks after the offense allegedly occurred. A driver may have picked up and dropped off hundreds of people in the intervening time, and often cannot even recollect where she or he was at the time of the purported offense.</p><p>Red light camera tickets accounted for nearly 9,000 tickets to taxi drivers in 2012. That generated at least $843,000 dollars for the city (cha-ching!). Interestingly, there were a couple of taxis that were each issued 14 red light camera tickets that year alone. Does that count as reckless driving? Maybe. But with the automated ticketing system, the city no longer relies on police to pull them over.</p><p><script id="infogram_0_top-citations-issues-to-taxi-drivers-2012" src="//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p><p><strong>There are known unknowns</strong></p><p>Aside from the data held by the Circuit Court of Cook County (mostly moving violations) and the Department of Finance (mostly parking and red light cameras), there is also untold amounts of data at the City of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings. This department keeps track of all citations issued under the city&rsquo;s Rules and Regulations for <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/rulesandregs/publicchauffeursrulesregs20121203.pdf">public chauffeurs</a> and for <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/publicvehicleinfo/medallionowners/medallionlicenseholderrulesregsf20120626.pdf">medallion owners</a>.</p><p>This is where we ran into problems. Despite having data on citations that were issued under those parts of the city code in 2012, the department is incapable of searching their database in useful ways. We submitted multiple requests for data of the top ten violations for taxi drivers in that year. But the department was unable to do this search, and asked us to specify which violations we wanted to know about. Obviously, this is not very helpful.</p><p>However, somewhat inexplicably, the department was able to tell us that the top two violations were for &ldquo;unsafe driving&rdquo; and &ldquo;discourteous conduct.&rdquo; As mentioned earlier, this department adjudicated fewer than 1000 citations for unsafe driving. However, it handled more than 4,000 citations for discourteous conduct.</p><p>But let&rsquo;s complicate this even more. James Mueller once worked for the city, and helped write many of the rules that still govern Chicago&rsquo;s taxi industry today. After he retired, he briefly used his lawyering skills to help cab drivers fight citations in the city&rsquo;s Administrative Hearings Court. He told us that this experience was revelatory, because often decisions &ndash; on both sides &ndash; were not reached according to what made the roads safer, but for what was more expeditious.</p><p>Mueller specifically saw this happen with cab drivers who came into the court after being cited for reckless driving. &ldquo;And the city will tell them on a reckless driving [charge], I would say probably 9 times out of 10, unless the person has a &nbsp;bad record, &lsquo;if you plead guilty I&rsquo;ll amend the charge from reckless driving to general simple discourteous conduct and offer a relatively low fine,&rsquo;&rdquo; Mueller said.</p><p>Often, the cab driver would take the deal, said Mueller, because the penalty for discourteous conduct is a relatively minor fine. On the other hand, if the driver were to be found guilty of reckless driving, he or she would have to go back to public chauffeur training school, undergo a physical exam and get a drug test. At the worst, this risks his or her license, and at best, results in a loss of income for several weeks while they try to get reinstated.</p><p>&ldquo;So a lot of those reckless driving charges, whether they happened or not, get shifted to general discourtesy,&rdquo; said Mueller. &ldquo;And that way it&rsquo;s more efficient for the city to handle all of those cases, you get all these guilty pleas, you get all of this money coming in, and that&rsquo;s the way it works.&rdquo;</p><p><script id="infogram_0_taxi-complaints-from-311-calls-2012" src="//e.infogr.am/js/embed.js" type="text/javascript"></script></p><p>We asked the city&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings if they could share data on what the original charges, and what the amended charges were for each of the citations in 2012. It could not provide us with that data. So in the end, the information we received about discourteous conduct and unsafe driving from this source may be completely unreliable.</p><p>One thing this could explain, however, is the enormous mismatch between cab complaints called in via 311, and the violations that the city adjudicates. In 2012, the city took about 14,000 calls about taxis. Half of those were to report reckless driving. Fewer than 1,200 were to report a &ldquo;rude&rdquo; cab driver. Less than 5 percent of those 311 calls ended up with a case being filed with the city&rsquo;s Department of Administrative Hearings. It turns out, the vast majority of 311 callers either don&rsquo;t take note of essential details about the cab that irked them (such as its cab number), or they don&rsquo;t follow through with filling out an affidavit of the complaint.</p><p><strong>Finally, there are also unknown unknowns</strong></p><p>On top of the data we requested (and mostly didn&rsquo;t receive) from the Department of Administrative Hearings, there is a whole spectrum of other violations that a cab driver might receive. Typically, these would be for non-moving violations &ndash; things relating to the condition of his or her vehicle, like whether a tail light is out, or whether there are scratches on the vehicle.</p><p>This may not be what Dan was originally getting at in his question, but it became apparent in talking to people that these kinds of infractions can add up to significant cost and inconvenience for both drivers and cab owners. On the flip side of that coin, they also can add up to hefty revenue for the city. Unfortunately, the Department of Administrative Hearings was unable to provide us with any data falling under this section of the municipal code.</p><p><strong>In sum&hellip;</strong></p><p>In sum, it sounds like taxi drivers are hit with tickets more than other drivers are &ndash; whether they be pulled over by a cop, caught by a red light camera, or later receive a &ldquo;fly ticket&rdquo; in the mail. And it&rsquo;s not just city agents that are keeping an eye on them. They&rsquo;re subject to scrutiny by other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians who call 311 and can report violations.</p><p>The industry, too, has some interest in keeping the worst drivers off the road. Responsible taxi affiliation companies keep track of how safe drivers are, because they don&rsquo;t want to foot higher insurance premiums for the unsafe ones.</p><p>&ldquo;We have to be at an ultimate &ndash; or a heightened &ndash; level of awareness a lot of times,&rdquo; said Smith, the cab driver, &ldquo;which is stressful.&rdquo;</p><p>But Dan&rsquo;s question asked for a number &ndash; how many times cabs are pulled over. And unfortunately we couldn&rsquo;t get that for him. Still, we hope this helps lift the veil a bit on the complicated world of taxi rules and code enforcement.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">@oyousef</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">@WBEZoutloud</a></em></p></p> Wed, 19 Feb 2014 11:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-often-are-cabs-pulled-over-and-what-109734 Aldermen skeptical of speed camera plan http://www.wbez.org/story/aldermen-skeptical-speed-camera-plan-97299 <p><p>Some Chicago aldermen remain skeptical of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to put speed cameras around schools and parks. The ordinance introduced at Wednesday's City Council meeting would allow cameras to catch speeders within an eighth of mile of schools and parks.</p><p>North Side Ald. Scott Waguespack says the plan has not been well received in his ward.</p><p>"People were really upset with the whole policy in general," said Waguespack.</p><p>Waguespack said aldermen have not been given enough information on how the plan would achieve Emanuel's long-stated goal to protect kids.</p><p>The mayor continued to defend the ordinence Wednsday after introducing it Wednesday, saying the the plan asks people to "abide by the law" and "acts as a deterance" to would-be speeders.</p><p>"It has shown time and again to have done that, and that's the goal," said Emanuel.</p><p>Emanuel brought in a Fr. Christopher Devron from Christ the King Jesuit Preperatory Church and two doctors from Children's Memorial Hosptial to help argue his case to reporters.</p><p>But critics say the cameras are a money grab for the cash-strapped city.</p><p>Emanuel recently made minor changes to his camera plan, and cutting down the number of cameras and the hours of operation around schools from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.</p><p>"I'm open to ideas that help enforce, help improve the bill, but I won't compromise on the bill as it relates to protecting our children," said Emanuel.</p><p>West Side Alderman Walter Burnett said others aldermen are asking for more concessions from the mayor.</p></p> Wed, 14 Mar 2012 22:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/aldermen-skeptical-speed-camera-plan-97299 Emanuel lobbies for school zone speed cameras with House vote pending http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-lobbies-school-zone-speed-cameras-house-vote-pending-93831 <p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is lobbying hard for a bill that would allow the city to use red light cameras to catch speeders near school zones and parks.</p><p>The measure quickly passed the Senate two weeks ago, but some representatives say it could face stiffer opposition in the House, which is expected to vote this week.</p><p>Emanuel insisted the cameras are needed to slow down drivers in school zones.</p><p>"If you follow the law, you have nothing to worry about," said Emanuel. "Simple. As you follow the law, this is not a problem. If you break the law, obviously you've got a concern, and all I'm saying is don't do it near a school or park."</p><p>Under the proposal, drivers caught speeding near parks and schools could face a $100 dollar fine. The bill approved by the Senate allows cameras around schools to operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on school days and from one hour before opening and after closing for parks. Emanuel said all ticketing revenue would go toward funding for various school programs, citing after school programs and speed bumps as examples.</p><p>Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein discussed how the city might use the cameras to catch speeders near school zones and parks. Klein said 79 current red light cameras are within one-eighth of a mile from a school or park. He said the city is looking into reworking those cameras to catch speeders.</p><p>"The goal is to change people's behavior," said Klein. "You have education, engineering and enforcement. And if you don't have enforcement the other two aren't as effective."</p><p>Klein said the city could start using the cameras as early as this summer. He said the city is also considering tracking speeders by placing specially equipped vans near safety zone intersections without red light cameras.</p><p>Klein said enforcement would follow a 30-day grace period, where warnings would be issued to people caught speeding.</p></p> Mon, 07 Nov 2011 22:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-lobbies-school-zone-speed-cameras-house-vote-pending-93831 Naperville council votes to end red light cameras http://www.wbez.org/story/naperville-council-votes-end-red-light-cameras-93703 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20100610_akeefe_1238416_Red _large.png" alt="" /><p><p>West suburban Naperville is ending it's red-light camera program. A split vote on Tuesday resulted in the council nixing the red light camera program. They cited statistics that show red light cameras have reduced collisions at some intersections.</p><p>But two of the city's three cameras must be removed during upcoming construction. Council members have debated whether it makes financial sense to keep the last camera.</p><p>Karen DeAngelis is the Director of Finance for the city of Naperville. She said the average net monthly revenue is $65,000 dollars from all three cameras. The average monthly maintenance is $29,000 dollars. DeAngelis said the remaining camera is at the least violated of all intersections, so it may not result in the city making money off of it.</p><p>Councilman Bob Fieseler said that's in part because motorists have become more cautious and there are now fewer violations.</p><p>"Let's take government out of the enforcement business until there's a problem," Fieseler said.</p><p>Fieseler said the question remains as to whether violations will creep back up without the cameras.</p><p>In January, Naperville will go back to catching motorists entirely the old fashioned way with police officers.</p><p>Stopping the camera program will pile an additional $200,000 dollars to the city's $1.9 million dollar shortfall in next year's budget.</p></p> Wed, 02 Nov 2011 19:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/naperville-council-votes-end-red-light-cameras-93703 So Bud bought Goose Island. Look on the bright side, we might see some hilarious Goose Island commercials! http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-03-29/so-bud-bought-goose-island-look-bright-side-we-might-see-some-hilari <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-March/2011-03-29/SpudsMcKenzie1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="410" width="313" title="" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-29/SpudsMcKenzie1.jpg" /></p><p><strong>Top story</strong>: All hell is breaking loose because <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/anheuser-busch/anheuser-busch-buys-goose-island-beer-company-84359">Spuds McKenzie bought Goose Island</a>? Relax everyone. It's going to be fine.&nbsp; I, for one, can't wait for the hilarious Goose Island commercials with young drinkers doing whatever it takes to get a 312 or a Honkers Ale. Honkers Ale? I'm sure the fine people at Leo Burnett are already working up a line of ads that give us &quot;Honker Man,&quot; who despite his big nose and geeky persona, scores with the ladies because of beer. Gold! Man, I&nbsp;should work in advertising...</p><p><strong>B story</strong>: So <a href="http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2011/03/28/red-light-shutters-jerry-kleiner-spending-more-time-in-la-is-this-the-end-of-kdk.php">Jerry Kleiner is just folding up shop and moving on</a>? How will we live without his colorfully striped rayon shirts?&nbsp;</p><p>The restaurant magnet that helmed KDK&nbsp;group for years and brought high-concept dining to the forefront in&nbsp;Chicago has run into tax problems. Giocco in the South Loop closed last week because they weren't paying select taxes. And then&nbsp;Red Light in the West Loop was closed for operating without a liquor license, which was not renewed. Throw in the closing of Marche in the fall and KDK&nbsp;is in a free fall. Kleiner is interesting because he made fine dining hot without star chefs. Today, he has to compete with the Izards and the Achatz of the world. It's a sad ending to a very instrumental time in Chicago's culinary scene. It seems to be kind of a chaotic mess, but I guess that's how restaurants do it: Burn bright and flame out. They rarely tell you they are closing, or do a liquidation sale for two months like Borders.</p><p>But here's the thing, Jerry: Haven't you learned <em>anything</em> about running a business in&nbsp;Illinois? When you don't want to pay taxes, don't close up shop. Just threaten to leave the state. In other words, pull a &quot;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/28/illinois-ceo-warns-he-may_n_841360.html">Caterpillar</a>.&quot;</p><p><strong>C story:</strong><a href="http://www.bettergov.org/red-light_cameras_ticket_cta_bus_drivers_but_taxpayers_charged/"> The Better Government Association and Fox Chicago did an investigation into CTA buses and red light camera tickets</a>. It turns out that a tremendous amount of those tickets are slapped on cars and buses with M&nbsp;plates, not to mention CTA&nbsp;buses. But do the CTA&nbsp;bus drivers pay? Nope, CTA&nbsp;does - $227,000 since 2006. That means it gets passed on to taxpayers and riders in the forms of more federal/state funding and fare hikes. So the next time you want that bus to get through that yellow light so you can get home faster, remember it will probably cost you about $4&nbsp; - maybe even more if the bus isn't packed.</p><p><strong>Weather</strong>: Still unseasonably cold. Although my iPhone tells me we might hit the 50s by Sunday.</p><p><strong>Sports</strong>: Okay fine, you got us, Blackhawks. We'll start paying attention now. The Blackhawks were on the verge of playing golf this April. They lost some key games down the stretch and were watching from the bottom of the playoff brackets. Last night, they gave Chicago a taste why they won the Stanley Cup <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/hockey/blackhawks/ct-spt-0329-blackhawks-red-wings-chic20110328,0,122662.story">with a 3-2 OT&nbsp;win over the Red Wings in Detroit</a>. Will this be the game that wakes up the Hawks? Come on Hawks, we need a playoff run! We want mass hysteria in the West Loop for both the Hawks <em>and</em> the Bulls. For a while there, it looked like we might get it - but the Hawks need to hold up their end of the bargain. So let's put our rally caps on and hope the Hawks pull a UCONN&nbsp;and win 9 or so in a row. Think of the local economy, fellas.&nbsp; A good strong surge? And those t-shirt/hat shops on Michigan Avenue (just south of Wacker) can stay in business.</p><p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Kicker</strong>: Mission Amy KR never ceases to amaze me. Another great mission last week, where Amy Krouse Rosenthal asked her readers to send in pictures to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/mission-amy-kr/2011-03-28/mission-66-send-save-suggest-84383">show solidarity and support for the Japanese people</a>. You did. And she put together this great slideshow:</p><p><iframe height="311" frameborder="0" width="500" allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/p_r4HSuTUwE" title="YouTube video player"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 29 Mar 2011 13:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-03-29/so-bud-bought-goose-island-look-bright-side-we-might-see-some-hilari ACLU report details city's use of cameras around Chicago http://www.wbez.org/story/aclu/aclu-report-details-citys-use-cameras-around-chicago <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/51872283.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A leading civil rights group wants Chicago to stop expanding its network of thousands of cameras covering the city due to privacy issues, First Amendment concerns and a lack of regulation, according to a report released Tuesday.</p><p>The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois called for a full review of the cameras, which number at least 10,000 and are at locations from skyscrapers to utility poles, saying city officials won't release basic information like the exact number, cost and any incidents of misuse.</p><p>Those concerns, along with city officials' plans for expansion, put Chicago a step closer to a Big Brother invasion of privacy, the ACLU alleged.</p><p>&quot;Chicago's camera network invades the freedom to be anonymous in public places, a key aspect of the fundamental American right to be left alone,&quot; the report states. &quot;Each of us then will wonder whether the government is watching and recording us when we walk into a psychiatrist's office, a reproductive health care center, a political meeting, a theater performance, or a book store.&quot;</p><p>The system, which started less than a decade ago, has been called the most extensive and integrated camera network of any U.S. city by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Chicago police have praised the cameras' use and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has even called for cameras to be installed on every city corner to help fight crime.</p><p>Chicago police and Daley have lauded the cameras and defended their use, saying they help authorities respond more quickly and have led to more than 4,000 arrests. Daley's office didn't respond to requests for comment about the report.</p><p>The network includes private cameras and those installed by city agencies, like the Chicago Transit Authority. While many of the cameras are visible like those with flashing blue lights affixed to street poles countless others are unmarked. City officials have been tight-lipped about how many cameras Chicago has in place, but no one has disputed that there are at least 10,000, including more than 4,000 installed by Chicago Public Schools and at least 1,000 at O'Hare International Airport.</p><p>In its report, the ACLU outlined three specific technologies that exceed the powers of ordinary human observation and increase the government's power to watch the public: zoom, facial recognition capacity and automatic tracking.</p><p>&quot;Chicago's growing camera network is part of an expanding culture of surveillance in America. Combined with other government surveillance technologies, cameras can turn our lives into open books for government scrutiny,&quot; the report says. &quot;Chicago's camera network chills and deters lawful expressive activities protected by the First Amendment, like attending a political demonstration in the public way.&quot;</p><p>ACLU officials said the city declined to give the group information on the cameras, including a tour of its operation center, statistics on crime and cost estimates. According to the report, surrounding communities have paid hefty sums for cameras; suburban Cicero has 30 cameras which cost $580,000.</p><p>The group said that money could be better spent on adding more police officers to Chicago streets, among other things. It added that there has been little research showing the cameras deter crime.</p><p>In addition to the moratorium, the agency recommended more public input, regular audits, rules and regulation on who can view the images, public notice before installing a camera and disclosure of any abuse. The report cites cases in other cities where &quot;male camera operators have ogled women.&quot;</p><p>Public complaints about the cameras haven't been widespread and are generally limited to those who get caught for a minor offense or if the cameras fail to record a violent attack.</p><p>Authorities say cameras played a prominent role in several high-profile cases. Footage from a city bus camera helped persuade a suspected gang member to plead guilty to shooting a 16-year-old high school student in 2007. Cameras helped police determine that the 2009 death of a school board president was a suicide.</p><p>Chicago police spokeswoman Lt. Maureen Biggane said she had not seen the ACLU report.</p><p>&quot;The Chicago Police Department is committed to safeguarding the civil liberties of city residents and visitors alike,&quot; she said in a statement. &quot;Public safety is a responsibility of paramount importance and we are fully committed to protecting the public from crime, and upholding the constitutional rights of all.&quot;</p></p> Tue, 08 Feb 2011 13:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/aclu/aclu-report-details-citys-use-cameras-around-chicago New Illinois law targets red light cameras http://www.wbez.org/story/james-damico/new-illinois-law-targets-red-light-cameras <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/cityroom_20100325_newsintern_1719363_Illi_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>A new Illinois law will bring more scrutiny to controversial red light camera programs. More cities have begun using the cameras at intersections.</p><p>While supporters tout increased safety,&nbsp; others see a Big Brother approach to law enforcement. Illinois lawmakers say the cameras also show no discretion, pointing out motorists who have been ticketed when they barely cross a stop line.</p><p>The General Assembly and Governor approved a law that takes effect January 1st. It will prohibit a citation for those who come to a complete stop without entering the intersection.</p><p>Chicago Democratic House member John D'Amico pushed for the change.</p><p>&quot;Before if you eased over the line a little bit you still got a ticket. You will not get that ticket now, but you have to come to complete stop. You just can't roll through the intersection,&quot; he said.</p><p>Tickets could still be given in such cases when a pedestrian is present. The law will require a police officer to sign off on all red light violations before any tickets are issued. An image of a violation must also be made available on a website and towns will need to notify the public where the cameras are posted.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 28 Dec 2010 13:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/james-damico/new-illinois-law-targets-red-light-cameras